Moving Up and Paying Up: A Case Study of Western Kentucky University’s Move to the Football Bowl Subdivision


  • Lawrence W. Judge Ball State University
  • James Johnson Ball State University
  • Don Hoover
  • Dan Tracy
  • Kara Holtzclaw Ball State University
  • Andy Walsh
  • Kayla Dempsey
  • Taylor Harris



College Football, Spending, Subsidies, Reclassification


A trend among college football programs is to ascend from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). While nine football programs have initiated the transition to the FBS since 2012, the football program at Western Kentucky University (WKU) was the only program from 2005 to 2011 to reclassify from the FCS to the FBS, providing a unique opportunity for a case study. Spending and revenue trends continue to fluctuate in athletic programs and in higher education at large. It is important to recognize the repercussions financially and otherwise of football reclassification and consider if elevating to FBS is a fiscally responsible decision for universities. Several financial decisions, including a stadium renovation, facilities expansion, aggressive coaching moves, conference realignment, and upgrading the nonconference schedule, demonstrated that WKU’s football program was an early adopter of the current reclassification trend in college athletics. By studying the case of WKU’s football transition to the FBS, we can explain the longitudinal impact of such a commitment and make connections to current trends in college football.

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Author Biography

Lawrence W. Judge, Ball State University

Professor of Kinesiology